One of the most popular trekking areas of Nepal has been given the green light by experts three months after powerful earthquakes rocked the country.
The first official report on safety in the Annapurna region has been welcomed by the tourism leaders and development agencies behind the assessment, who regard it as an important step towards the country’s economic recovery.
“Annapurna is ready to open for business” said Dr.Kit Miyamoto, CEO, Miyamoto International – the earthquake and structural engineering company behind the report. “The report highlights areas where organisations can help Nepal rebuild stronger than ever. We now have the information needed to take action. ”
Intrepid Travel is donating all profits from the upcoming season to support charities in Nepal as part of the initiative to return tourism to the country. “We’re one of the largest trekking operators in Nepal, and we know how reliant the country is on tourism,” said Darrell Wade, CEO and founder Intrepid Travel. “Because of this, we felt a big responsibility to get things in Nepal back to normal as soon as possible by kick-starting the trekking season in September.”
Tourism is Nepal’s largest source of foreign income, with more than 40 percent of the country’s 800,000 visitors each year coming for its iconic trekking and adventure activities. However, tour operators looking for reassurance on safety for travellers in the Annapurna region have had to rely on anecdotal evidence to date.
In a joint public-private initiative, earthquake engineering specialists Miyamoto International received funding from SAMARTH-UKAID on behalf of the government of Nepal to conduct the expert assessment, as the result of a proposal by one of the largest trekking operators in Nepal highlighting the industry’s need for the assessment.
The report from Miyamoto’s experts confirms that the Annapurna region, located in the Himalayas in north-central Nepal, sustained “very little damage, with the 3 percent of buildings which were damaged in the quake all easily repairable.”
The assessment of the Annapurna region was made by a team of geotechnical and structural engineering experts with mountain guides, who were sent to conduct a technical inspection of the main trekking routes and select villages ahead of the monsoon season.
“The aim of the report was to develop an overall understanding of the extent of the damage from the earthquakes so that we could assess the safety of the region’s trekking routes,” said Miyamoto.
The assessment is believed to be the first ever completed by international earthquake engineering specialists on trekking routes in Nepal, and the recommendations include opportunities to manage potential hazards not associated with the April and May earthquakes.
SUMMARY OF THE ASSESSMENT
- Around 30 bridges were assessed, with no damage found.
- 250 buildings were assessed in the Annapurna region – with earthquake damage in only 6 buildings, all can be repaired easily.
- Overall the report concluded that the Annapurna Circuit and Annapurna Sanctuary trails and villages appear largely undamaged by landslides following the earthquakes.
- However, the engineering assessment identified a number of potential hazard areas on the trek that can now be remedied as a result of the report.
- Experts from Miyamoto have recommended a more in-depth follow up assessment to be completed after the monsoon season ends.
The assessment also identified longer-term opportunities to reduce risks on the trails, including improved signage and communications for locals and visitors with information on natural hazards; providing engineering support for accommodation owners and construction workers to build back better and greatly improve accommodation structures on the trail.
Engineers also identified existing rockfall hazards that would not have been identified without the assessment, enabling locals and trekking companies to reduce occupancy in potential hazard areas by adjusting itineraries and relocating houses and lodges to safer areas.